Thursday, August 28, 2014

As Above So Below

It's "Descent" meets "Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade" meets "Event Horizon" when an urban archeologist's team searches for an ancient relic hidden in the catacombs of Paris. As the group goes deeper underground getting lost and confused, they experience weird & creepy encounters related to their pasts. Shot almost entirely in the actual catacombs with hand heal cameras (necessitated by the cramp confines of close quarters), this film is not for the claustrophobic or sufferers of motion sickness. The movie isn't so much horror, but a creation of creepy confusion through hallucinations or supernatural apparitions. Expect some casualties and startling scares along the way as the gang struggles desperately to find their way out.

Alien gives it 2 ½ "Alchemy's lost key" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The November Man

It's a wannabe James Bond film that casts ex-Bond Pierce Brosnan and former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko as the principal players in this "Spy vs Spy" and student vs mentor premise. Ex-CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) is re-activated in a fairly predictable plot involving his former pupil, damsels in distress, and a Russian president-elect. The body count runs extremely high with some brutal injuries in this action driven spy thriller with low pretense of realism and a stupid code name/movie title.

Alien gives it 2 ½ "double oh seven eleven man past his prime" stars out of 4.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

This is not a sneak preview. This film has already released.

Frank Miller and Richard Rodriguez are back at the helm after 9 years in the sequel to their noir film "Sin City". If you liked the first, you won't be disappointed. Composed of three loosely connected vignettes, the film is beautifully shot in high contrasting black and white with splashes of striking color. It is ultra-violent with cartoon-y white blood splatters. The dames are gorgeous, sexy, and deadly; provocatively dressed and undressed. The men are macho, tough as nails, and take a beating as well as give a beating. The dialog is cheesy and straight out of a cheap dime store detective novel. Some old characters return, some new characters have been added, and some new faces have replaced a few of the past characters. Powers Boothe is as evil as they come. Bruce Willis does his "Sixth Sense" thing. Jessica Alba grinds it out until she can reek her revenge. Mickey Rouke is a goon straight out of "Dick Tracy". Hey, didn't he die in the original? But no one cares because the mostly naked Eva Green vamps it up as a seductive black widow.

Alien gives it 3 "corruption in Basin City" stars out of 4.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What If

It's "Harry Potter" (Daniel Radcliffe) meets "Ruby Sparks" (Zoe Kazan) in a hilarious romantic comedy about friends without benefits and those awkward moments. She has a boyfriend and he has dumped his girlfriend, but there is definitely an attraction and a chemistry between them. Audiences will be drawn in by this charming couple, the witty dialog, and the crazy antics. Radcliffe and Kazan are terrific as the playful besties with a good supporting cast in this quirky film dealing with love and friendship.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "fool's gold sandwich" stars out of 4.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When The Game Stands Tall

The De La Salle High School football program in Concord, California, had set an incredible 151-game winning record and then the "Streak" ended. This inspired by a true story film focuses on how the coaches, and the players would handle this devastating loss and what they would do next.  This powerful and inspirational story is about how these people handle themselves under adversity. The movie has some great football sequences, but this film isn't really about football, winning games, or setting records. The coaching philosophy was not about winning games or being perfect. The legendary coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) merely wanted to help young boys to grow up and to prepare them to be dependable in the real world. Some parts of the film felt contrived until the actual footage clips played during the credits.

Alien gives it 3 "Brotherhood, Spartans Forever" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Expendables 3

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and the boys are back for more fun and war games. A daring prison escape, a mission gone awry, a time for new recruits, and a rescue mission are part of the plot-line Sly uses to prove older aging heroes of yesterday shouldn't be discounted in action films as well as in making action films. There are thrilling super stunts to tantalize the eyes and clever one-liners hinting at inside jokes. Sly rounds up another bunch of a dozen or so (proving anyone is can be replaced) of his pals to have fun in the sun shooting it up and blowing it up as well as taking verbal jabs at each other. The script plays to each individual's strengths and adds some new blood to the franchise to freshen it up. See Rocky/Rambo go toe-to-toe with Mad Max/Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). You get exactly what you expect here. It's mindless fun for thrill-seeking junkies. A funny but appropriate karaoke song plays at the end.

Alien gives it 3 "dog-tags jangling" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If I Stay

After a serious car accident, life hangs in the balance between heaven and earth for Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz). Alien's favorite Hit Girl aka Mindy McCready has grown up now and has given up her blades for the cello. This is an out-of-body experience told mainly through flashbacks about a loving family, a passion for music, and falling in love. Moretz is terrific as she takes you through the highs and lows of a teenager's love for family, music, and her first boyfriend. Music fills her life and this movie. She is born to cool rocker parents but her passion is classical music. She falls for a budding rock star but her dreams are of Julliard. This emotional tearjerker is about family, love, and sacrifice. 

Alien gives it 3 ½ "feeling her heart's passion" stars out of 4.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Giver

It's a thinking man's "Divergent" in another dystopia where Elders (like Meryl Streep) control the people through the sameness of a colorless & emotionless society following strict rules. When the children come of age, they are assigned their life's job. One special kid, Josh, has been selected to become the Receiver of Memories from the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Of course, as Josh learns the truths withheld from the people, he is compelled to upset the status quo to their "ideal" world. Although Alien liked the premise and the techniques to convey it, those same effects in the long run work against holding my interest in this slow moving plot through to the anti-climatic end. You may be better off reading this children's book because this looks like it may have been better on paper. Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift also co-star. Perhaps the 75 minute red carpet event intro on east coast tape delay wore me out for this 100 minute movie.

Alien gives it 2 "will the truth set you free" stars out of 4.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Dolphin Tale 2

The drama at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium continues in this sequel about Winter, the bottle-nose dolphin with the prosthetic tail. The entire original cast (including Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson) have returned to reprise their roles along with writer/director Charles Martin Smith. The touching new stories of two other dolphins, Panama & Hope, as well as a green sea turtle named Mazey have been added. Rufus the pelican is also back for some comic relief. Winter's handicap has attracted and is an inspiration to others who have lost limbs including "Soul Surfer" Bethany Hamilton (who makes an appearance as herself). This is an excellent family film about protecting and saving marine creatures. The inspirational real event footage plays at the end of this movie.

Alien gives it 3 "rescue, rehabilitation, and release" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3D)

Cowabunga, Dudes!

Those heroes in a half shell are back, but they aren't your "PG" childhood fantasy turtles anymore. These boys from "beneath" the hood have been re-branded bigger & badder and rougher & tougher with more street cred under their "PG-13" upgrade. The Michael Bay action machine has also transformed the evil Shredder. Here, he becomes a cross between a samurai Decepticon and Edward Scissorhands. Bay's now trademark incredibly wild car chase sequences tries to push it to another level to top all previous efforts. What a smart move to recreate an edgier version for all those original TMNT fans who have outgrown their innocent Saturday morning cartoon violence days. The plot is only the basic run-of-the-mill rescue the damsel in distress and stop the evil villain from world domination, but who cares as long as these super turtles kick butt in spectacular fashion. Of course, they do and all the while dropping pop culture references. This action-packed thrill ride is great fun. Amphibians Assemble!

Alien gives it 3 ½ "brotherhood" stars out of 4.

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